Monday, February 25, 2008

Owning an American Legend

In 1900, wild horses, numbered in the millions, roamed North America's praries, moutains, and deserts. America's Mustangs were mostly decended from horses brought by early European explorers--particularly the Spanish, but reflected an impressive mixture of genetic types from the smaller Spanish Barb, to Percheron and draft type stock. For many years, a frustrated Spanish government turned out thousands of wild Spanish-bred horses along the Rio Grande hoping the Indians would capture them instead of stealing from the Spanish missions. Today's Mustang herds, restricted to specific herd management areas by modern development, continue to thrive, but in much smaller numbers. The BLM estimates that 29,000 Mustangs and burros currently exist in the wild and they have 31,500 animals in holding facilities. Since the controversial passage of the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, about 218,000 wild horses and burros have been placed in private hands through the BLM's adoption process.
Tried, trued and tempered in Nature's selective furnace, the Mustang is iron tough. While Americans were busy breeding domestic horses for specific jobs, the creative forces at work in the wild were building a naturally hardy animal that could endure a much harsher world with poorer food and more distant water holes. While the story of Hildalgo is probably just legend, there is little doubt by those who ride the Mustang that it can out-distance its domestic counterpart. The Long Riders' Guild report some modern distance rides by Mustangs, including a 3,000 miler in 2001.

We adopted two American Legends in September, 2006 from the Sulphur herd. Our experience with the BLM and these tough little horses has been completely positive. One, a scrawny, buttermilk-dunn weanling named BarbWire, gentled right down within a couple of hours. She has the softest temperment of all our horses and she should be old enough to start riding this spring.

The other, a 4 year old line-back dunn we named Kissin' Kate Barlow, made me wonder if I had made a monumental mistake. I watched the BLM handlers load every horse into buyers' trailers the day of the sale. Kate was the only Mustang to try climbing out of the 8 foot loading chute. When we got her home, she showed the most fear and the most aggression to pressure. She would go to a corner and spin circles whenever anyone came near her pen. She was WILD! I finally sent her to Neil Childs, a professional trainer in Fountain Green for two months--and while she was there, I got to go help with her training. The day I brought her home and saddled her up she threw me off the first two tries--I stuck her on her third valiant try and she has never bucked since. In the short year that followed, she carried my family and me all over Snow Canyon, Pine Mountain, Zion Nat'l Park, the Uintas, Escalante's 50 Mile Mesa, parades, Grand Entries, and many other places.

Inside Kate's chest beats the biggest heart of any horse I've ridden. She's so little, my knuckles nearly drag the ground. But she can carry my 200 lbs over ground that surprises most of the riders I encounter. Kate is agile, flexible, and with a ten inch overstep--she's a very smooth ride. I hate to be guilty of personifying my animals, but I swear she is the happiest, most exuberant and playful horse on my place. I've seen her smile and lay down in the middle of a stream or sand bar to joyfully roll with rider, saddle and all. Whatever you want to call it--she's got loads more personality, wit and smarts than any of the quarter horse types we own.

If I had to sell her, today's market might struggle to bring me $500 dollars; but I'm not sure I'd take $10,000 if you were begging me cash in hand. From wild to mild in a few short months; from mistake to brilliant stroke of genious--this timeless American Legend is a priceless classic.


Tamster said...

Wow! I'm first!
I don't know what horse Preston (or is it Ethan? ;-)) is sitting on, but that is a beautiful horse!
Hidalgo was a good flick! It brought some attention to the Mustang, at least to me.
As always, thanks for sharing! :-)

BonBon said...

Um not EVEN for $500? I am in the market for a good horsie like that.

Mike and or Cindy said...

Awesome pictures of barbwire, kissin kate, and kailie. I love the one with barbwires nice slicked off shiny coat.

And who could forget the parade, Kailie stole the show.